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Weaning your baby: Introducing solid foods into your baby’s diet

Your baby’s digestive system is mature enough to cope with solid food at 6 months, so relax, smile, and go for it. Try not to worry about the mess too, as being able to touch and feel the food is just as important as tasting it. Throwing it on the floor doesn’t mean your baby doesn’t like what you’re offering. It’s just another skill to add to their growing list!

Where to start

Start with one “meal” a day, and pick a time when your baby will be alert and willing. A tired baby is likely to be less responsive to trying new things. By 1 year old, your baby should be enjoying three small meals a day, along with some healthy snacks. Keep offering your baby’s usual milk, but gradually reduce the amount as you increase the number of meals. It is advisable to give the baby their meal first to avoid filling up on the milk and refusing the food.

Important note: Do not introduce protein, cow’s milk (in food only), gluten-containing foods (bread, pasta, cereal, etc.) and allergenic foods such as eggs, fish and shellfish before 6 months. The nearer you can get to this age, the easier weaning will be.

If you’re thinking about starting before 6 months, talk to your health adviser first. Department of Health advice is that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life is best. However, it is recognized among the medical and health professions that some babies might need to start weaning sooner.

Waking up in the night is not necessarily because your baby is hungry. It could indicate a growth spurt, and so at 4 months, it should not be confused with the need to wean, however tempting it may be. Taking a real interest in what they are eating, chewing on their fist or toys and fussing or not seeming satisfied with milk feeds can all be signs of readiness to move on to solids. The most important consideration is that your baby must be able to sit up and hold their head unaided.

More7 Things your paediatric nutritionist wants you to know about your baby’s diet

For 4- to 5-month-old babies

WEaning your baby -
Image: thedabblist/Flickr

First solid foods: Powdered baby rice or cooked and sieved potato is good to start off with. Although it’s bland, it helps your baby to practice swallowing, and mixing it with your baby’s usual milk provides a familiar taste. This initial practice will allow your baby to get used to the action of the tongue. Having been used to pushing the tongue forward for sucking, your baby must now learn to push it back to swallow the thicker food.

Potato, butternut squash, apple, pear, carrot, parsnip, banana and sweet potato are ideal first baby foods, as well as non-gluten grains like rice, polenta, millet, sago and tapioca.

More10 Healthy baby food purees

For 5- to 6-month-old babies

Weaning your baby -
Image: thedabblist/Flickr

Move on to mild green vegetables (broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower), avocado, papaya, plums, apricots and red lentils.

Baby meal ideas at this stage:

  • Root vegetable medley (carrot, parsnip and sweet potato mixed with boiled water or breast/formula milk)
  • Fruit/vegetable combinations, such as sweet potato and apple or butternut squash and pear
  • Butternut squash and cooked red lentils
  • Fruit and millet (or other non-gluten grain)
  • Broccoli, cauliflower and potato bake

MoreSkip the store with these 3 no-cook baby food recipes

For 6- to 9-month-old babies

Consistency: Mash rather than puree (with the exception of harder foods like meat). Babies should also be able to handle finger foods alongside a meal. These can include soft ripe fruits, cooked vegetables and toast fingers.

Weaning your baby -
Image: Pixabay

Progress to stronger-tasting vegetables, like peppers, cabbage, green beans and leeks, and to fruits such as mango and peach. Include grains, such as pasta and oats, and add dairy products, like yogourt and cheese (milk in cooking only), as well as protein in the form of meat (chicken is best to start off with, as it’s softer and blander). Introduce allergenic foods such as eggs and fish separately, and wait two to three days between each to check for any potential reaction.

Baby meal ideas at this stage:

  • Carrot and red pepper risotto with chicken
  • Leek and potato with fromage frais
  • Zucchini and potato cheesy bake
  • Pasta bake
  • Fruit puree with yogourt or ricotta cheese

For 9- to 12-month-old babies

By this age, babies should be able to chew reasonably well with their hard gums, so mincing or chopping food is adequate. You can move on to offering raw fruit and vegetables alongside a meal. Note: Don’t add salt and sugar to their food.

Weaning your baby -
Image: Lars Plougmann/Flickr

Move on to include red meat, citrus fruits and a small amount of dried apricots, raisins or figs. Warning: Round fruits, like grapes or tomatoes, represent a choking hazard and should be cut in half.

Baby meal ideas at this stage:

  • Lamb, lentil and vegetable stew
  • Mediterranean vegetables with quinoa
  • Chicken and mushroom casserole
  • Poached apple with homemade custard
  • Chopped, poached summer fruits with yogourt or fromage frais

More: Homemade baby food

Should I give organic baby food?

Concerns about pesticides in fruit and vegetables and antibiotics in meat mean that many choose organic produce. Nutritionally speaking, there is no evidence that organic food is healthier for you. Regardless of what you choose, you should always wash the fruit and vegetables thoroughly before peeling.

Remember that babies need a lot of calories, so use full-fat dairy in cooking, and provide a variety of vegetables, protein and carbohydrates with every meal. This is a wonderful stage of your baby’s life and the start of their becoming a real part of your family. Enjoy mealtimes together, and your baby will learn from your example, growing to enjoy a varied and healthy diet.

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